Of the four elected Presidents Nigeria has had till date, none has been impeached.
To impeach is to indict, accuse, incriminate,charge or arraign before a tribunal and eventually to remove from office. And of all the powers given to the National Assembly by the Constitution none is more powerful than impeaching the President.
The Constitution does not empower the National Assembly to elect the President but the same Constitution gives the power to the assembly to impeach or remove any President.
The closest the National Assembly has gone in this regard was on August 13, 2002 when the House of Representatives under the leadership of Gali Umar N’abba issued a two-week ultimatum to President OlusegunObasanjo to resign or face impeachment proceedings. The Clerk of the House at that time was my friend, Chief Yemi Ogunyomi,who was being assisted at that time by Mr.MuyiwaAdejokun,who is now Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly.
The House of Representatives at that time charged President Obasanjo for 17 major offences. He made a reply to those charges on September 7, 2003.
Although the President said at that time that ”I assure you that I am not angry with the complainants” but we knew better, as there was serious anxiety at the Presidential villa. Friends and aides of President Obasanjo including OtunbaOyewole Johnson Fasawe, Andy Uba,BodundeAdeyanju and others, including the first lady, the late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo,were running from pillar to post, trying to ward off the impeachment threat. Even the then Nigerian High Commissioner in London, Dr. Christopher Kolade had to rush down from London to help save President Obasanjo.
The President’s spokesman at that time the late Tunde Oseni formed a think-tank of which I was one, to reply the charges. The suspicion floated either wrongly or rightly by then was that AbubakarAtiku,the Vice-President, was behind the impeachment threat. The suspicion led to the sack of many aides of Alhaji Atiku and led to a wall built between the President and Atiku.
Some still believe that the impeachment threat was the beginning of animosity between the two men.
Unfortunately that grave suspicion, is still lingering.
Among the charges were:
* That sometime between the months of April and July, 2002,the President purportedly amended the Capital Provisions of the 2002 Appropriation Act by reducing the Capital budget to 44% without forwarding the said amendments to the National Assembly for passage in violation of Section 80(4) of the 1999, Constitution which acts amounts to gross misconduct.
* On or about the month of July 2002, he issued a presidential order purporting same to constitute an amendment to the amendment to the Revenue Allocation Act which action amounts to a violation of Section 162(1) and (2) and Section 313 of 1999 Constitution which amounts to a gross misconduct.
* That in the year 2002, he refused to fully implement the recurrent budget as it affects the salaries of staff and overheads for Ministries contrary to the provisions of the Appropriation Act 2002,which amounts to gross misconduct.
* That in the year 2002, he refused full payment of recurrent expenditure for the judiciary as it affects monies for the payment of salaries and overhead costs contrary to the Appropriation Act of 2002 which act amounts to gross misconduct, contrary to Sections 80(3) and 162(9) of the Constitution.
* That in the year 1999, Mr. President appointed Mr.Musiliu Smith as Inspector- General of Police without consultation with the Police Council, contrary to the 1999 Constitution.
* That Mr. President caused the appointment of, and service as Acting Auditor-General of the Federation for a period exceeding six months without Resolution of the Senate contrary to Section 86(3) of the 1999 Constitution which act amounts to gross misconduct.
* That Mr. President has unilaterally merged the Federal Road Safety Commission, a body established by an Act with the Nigeria Police without a Bill for an Act to harmonise the two bodies, or repeal the FRSC Act.
Although President Obasanjo was spared of the impeachment but others were not so lucky. The threat was noted by President Obasanjo. Many casualties followed and the country was not spared of that threat.
You don’t cock a gun on a General if you are not prepared to shoot. When you cock a gun on a General you don’t withdraw. You either kill the General or he kills you. No withdrawal. For a General knows only war not peace.
After the impeachment threat, President Obasanjo took over completely the machinery of the government and that of the party,PDP. He got the Chairman of the party Barnabas Gemade to be sacked and replaced him with Audu Ogbeh. All political appointees suspected, rightly or wrongly to be involved with the impeachment threat were sacked. He made sure GaliN’abba did not come back to the house in 2003. He even made a deal with AD, the dominant party in the South-West at that time in other to gain political support for himself in that region. The deal eventually killed the AD, but only, Chief Bola Tinubu knew better.
After the election he brought in,an inexperienced so called “ DREAM TEAM” and gave the team all the blessings and power to run the government, a costly mistake though and launched an unrelenting war on Abubakar Atiku. The rest is history.
The question is, can Presidents be impeached if found guilty of any offence? Of course Presidents can be impeached. Those who wrote the Constitution knew better. It was not meant to threaten Presidents; it was designed to be carried out. As long as there is impeachment clause in the Constitution, it should continue to remind any incumbent President that no matter all the powers the Constitution has bestowed on him and no matter the sycophancy heaped on him constantly by his aides and friends, he could be removed. It is even good for the system. For Presidents are not above the law and that after all they are mere mortals. The impeachment clause will even put Presidents on their toes.
Mohandi K. Ghandi (1869-1948) wrote that: “I can neither respect nor have affection for a government which has been moving from wrong to wrong in order to defend its immorality”.
Mr ERIC TENIOLA, a former Director at the Presidency, wrote from Lagos.